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Teacher regulation proposals put to the test


published:11 Feb 2011

Education Bill proposals on regulation of the teaching profession could fail to meet a public interest test, warns GTCE Chair Gail Mortimer.

Leading a debate of Council Members, Gail has expressed serious concerns about the impact of the plans for children and young people, the teaching profession and for the public. The discussion will now inform the General Teaching Council for England’s formal response to the scheme and the evidence it will offer to the Public Bill Committee when it considers the proposals.

Members heard that teacher competence would no longer be regulated nationally. The most seriously incompetent teachers would no longer be subject to potential barring from the profession or to having conditions set on their teaching, for example to re-train.  Given the current inconsistency and sometimes reluctance in dealing with performance problems locally, ending national regulation of competence would pose a significant risk of more problems going unaddressed.

Gail welcomed the inclusion of all schools – not just those in the maintained sector – within the scope of misconduct regulation. However removing the duty on employers to refer cases identified locally risked inconsistency as it would put the onus on individual head teachers and employers to decide the relative seriousness of a case. The single sanction (of prohibition) approach envisaged in the Bill could lead to disproportionate or inappropriate decisions, she continued. In addition employers may be more reluctant to refer misconduct cases where there is an ‘all or nothing’ approach.

Further issues highlighted by Gail include:

  • It is not yet clear whether members of the public would still be able to refer concerns about teacher conduct directly.
  • The proposals do not yet guarantee transparency and accountability for the teacher and for the fairness of the system overall.
  • With the Secretary of State becoming both policy maker and arbiter for disciplinary decisions, the involvement of lay and professional adjudicators would be needed to provide distance and impartiality.
  • A sharp contrast could open up between the teaching profession in England and elsewhere in the UK and with other professions. The profession may lose the means to share responsibility for its own standards - both their guarding and raising. The new system would mean that – unlike other professions – teaching would cede responsibility for its fundamental principles, professional and ethical frameworks to the Secretary of State. This could have a detrimental impact on the standing and status of the profession with the public.
  • The loss of a universal teaching register would mean there was no longer a single source of information about the good standing and qualification of all teachers – an important public assurance about teachers’ suitability.
  • With no register employers would face an increase in paperwork in carrying out pre-employment checks. A register also provides an important research tool and means of monitoring (and therefore planning ahead for) the changing profile of a profession.


Commenting, GTCE Chair Gail Mortimer said:

‘These proposals currently carry risks both to the public and the profession. Parents tell us that they want accountability in education to focus on the teacher quality that is of paramount importance in the life chances of young people. We must question how far the proposed model can serve that desire. Young people deserve an equal entitlement to the good standing and expertise of their teachers.

‘Professional registration and professionally led regulation are common to medicine, nursing, the law and many others as well as to teaching in other parts of the UK. They help to provide public assurance of suitability and of a profession’s willingness to take collective responsibility for its own standards and to take action when things go wrong.

‘I am deeply concerned about the potential impact of the plans on the public’s ability to hold the profession to account and on the standing of the profession. To streamline makes good sense, but to do so at the cost of consistency risks undermining the Government’s intention to take children’s learning and achievement in this country to the next level. I hope the evidence we provide will allow Ministers and Parliament to look closely at the balance of the potential benefits and risks as the Bill progresses.’

Notes to editors

The General Teaching Council for England is the independent professional and regulatory body for teaching in England. 580,000 qualified teachers are registered with the GTCE.

Its principal statutory remit is to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning and to maintain and improve standards of conduct in the public interest.

The Secretary of State for Education announced plans to close the GTCE in June 2010. The Education Bill published on 27 January 2011 made provision to bring this about and includes proposals for the future regulation of teachers in England.


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  • Submission to the Public Bill Committee